In case you haven’t noticed, we use a social and interactive web. Unless you’re one of those uber conservative (are we still using the word uber?) “I don’t put myself out there on the web” type people, we’re totally intertwined with the web. Between Facebook, Twitter, blogs, RSS feeds, forums and everything else, we’re constantly interacting with both people we know and people who bring value to our work and lives. Just recently, we’ve seen this same move with church database software (kinda).
Think about it, you’re Church database holds the records of hundreds, thousands of tens of thousands of people who have attended your church. More than likely, most of that data is wrong or outdated. Typically, the only way to get more accurate data is to get church attendees to fill out a new card and then manually update the data which is often can be confusing. The ideal solution is to have the average church attendee fix their own data. I know, there have been solutions for many years for people to log into specific pages where they could see all their stuff and update it, but rarely was there a strong/compelling reason for people to take the steps to get online just so they could keep their info up-to-date. The truth is, there hasn’t really been a compelling reason for people to do this except to occasionally sign-in to check giving records or sign-up for an event. However, in these cases I’ve seen people not really change incorrect data when in there and this is such a small penetration of the church who is doing this.
However, we’re on the verge of something totally new. It’s the social/interactive arm of your church’s database.
MOST people are searching for community. Not online community, but real community. Some of those already in community are looking for ways to enhance it. That’s where the social CMS is changing. They’re creating a space online where attendees can interact online with each other and the church in easy/non-threatening ways. There is space for actual small groups to continue discussions, pray for each other during the week and plan upcoming serving projects or socials. There are tools for serving teams (such as your 9:30 toddler room volunteers) to discuss how the weekend went, discuss policies and adjust their serving schedule without having to use email lists. The best part is how easy these systems let visitors explore and interact with your church before taking that risky step of setting foot in a small group. Again, this isn’t a “virtual” community, but a reflection of community that already exists. When attendees have this kind of interaction and value from a tool like this, they’ll keep their data up-to-date. From the church point of view, not only will you have up-to-date information, but you’ll see their involvement, how they’re connected and if you think there is some data that’s not correct, you can simply message them through the community software and have them update it.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? We’ll explore more tomorrow.
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Love the idea and can’t wait to read some of your ideas about how to flesh it out!